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Echoes of the Past Chapter 1

Parker Davis sat in an old, used Winnebago parked at Pete’s Auto Repair observing the apartment building across the street. For almost six months, she had tracked Sophie Durant from one backwater town to the next always arriving anywhere from a day to a week too late. All indications now pointed to Sophie staying with her friend, Camille Peterson, in the apartment building she now observed. As she sat and watched, a melancholy of sorts floated over her—Portsmouth was home ten years earlier. Pull yourself out of it, Parker, now is not the time for a stroll down memory lane.


In her five-month search, Parker had exhausted all the usual suspects and began seeking out obscure friends that Sophie had as a child. Camille Peterson was a classmate of Sophie’s from kindergarten to her sophomore year in high school. When she approached Camille’s mother on the pretense of a class reunion she hit the jackpot. The woman was more than happy to talk about her daughter’s early years and all her friends. To Parker’s surprise, Camille and Sophie were lifelong friends that maintained a close friendship past high school.


So far, she hadn’t spotted the woman, but her gut told her that with patience Sophie would eventually appear. You’re the most patient person I’ve ever known her old partner would say. This was the fifth day of her surveillance and she knew the faces, names, and schedules of everyone who lived in the building. She watched each morning as the Peterson woman left for work and returned late each afternoon. Even though she had no visible sighting of Sophie, she was certain she saw two silhouettes in the window of apartment 2B.


It was midmorning and Parker drummed her fingers on the dashboard wondering, not for the first time, if she was on the right track. Evelyn Durant, Sophie’s stepmother, hired her to find her missing stepdaughter, indicating that her husband was brokenhearted by his daughter’s disappearance. From her initial meeting with Evelyn, Parker did not like the woman and couldn’t shake the feeling that there was far more to the story than merely finding someone. Nevertheless, when the woman offered ten thousand dollars upfront, Parker took the money. Evelyn Durant was so generous that Parker could afford to pass up on other cases. This is like a gift from the gods and I won’t let it slip through my fingers.


A police vehicle drove by and Parker sighed. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I left the Portsmouth police force. She vividly remembered riding in a squad car with her partner as they patrolled the streets. Those were great times until… When she saw Sophie Durant on the walkway across the street, all her thoughts retreated to the back of her mind. 


“Ha, I finally found you Sophie,” Parker said with satisfaction. She lifted the Nikon to her eye, pressed a button and the shutter sprang to life rapidly capturing each movement the woman made. Only when the woman was speeding away in a cream-colored Altima, did she lower the camera. 


In one motion, she rested the camera on the seat, picked up a small silver object and flipped it open. A smile crossed her face as she watched the steady bright dot move farther away. “Now don’t you stray too far,” she purred. “I have a small job to do then I’ll find you again.”


She opened the door, eased her long, lean muscled body out of the Winnebago and let her eyes scan the area. Satisfied that no one was paying her any attention, she fitted a tool belt around her waist and put on a cap with the electric company logo over her short black hair. With the deliberate casualness of someone with the supreme confidence in whom and what they were, she walked across the street and up the very sidewalk that her target had just used. It had always been her opinion if she acted as if she belonged, no one would notice her. She made a career out of being nondescript, looking like she belonged wherever she went—essentially she was forgettable.  Her eyes constantly shifted as she took in every aspect of her surroundings. Once she reached the staircase that led to the second floor, she took the stairs two at a time. Her senses were on heightened alert when she knocked on the door of apartment 2B. She did a quick survey of the hallway then inserted a slender piece of metal into the lock and began to manipulate it until she heard a click. Again, she looked around before quickly opening the door and entering the small apartment. 


Her dark eyes surveyed the room until she found what she was looking for. It only took her a few seconds to remove the plate over the telephone outlet and insert a small listening device. With practiced efficiency, she did the same in both bedrooms and the kitchen before she left locking the door behind her. She looked at her wristwatch and smiled. “Four minutes, I believe that’s a new record.” A smile crossed her face as she remembered her old partner’s words. You know, Parker, you can out strategize with the best of them, but when it comes down to implementation, you suck. “How is that for execution?” 


When she reentered the Winnebago, she flipped open the device tracking Sophie’s movements and saw that the car had stopped about a mile away. She quickly took off the utility belt and cap then bent down to replace the heavy work boots with a worn pair of Nikes. In no time at all, she was in a rusted out van heading toward the place where Sophie had parked. When she pulled into a grocery store parking lot, Parker grinned for she knew the store. Absently she bit her inner cheek as images of the past tried to haunt her. She shook her head to remove any traces of the past—nevertheless they still loomed. This town certainly has a way of dredging up old memories whenever I’m here. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she blew it out. Those memories have no place in my life now.


She pulled on a large floppy hat that had long black hair extensions cascading from inside the brim and looked in the rearview mirror. How can you be so intuitive about most things and lack in disguises is beyond me. The memories flowed unchecked and she growled at the image she saw. “Enough of this nonsense, I need to go check out where the woman I’m pretty sure is Sophie Durant went.” To complete the look, she shrugged on an oversized raincoat and added gigantic white sunglasses. She learned long ago that the more ridiculous she looked the less likely anyone could give an accurate description of her face. She looked at herself in the mirror on the visor and laughed. “And, I certainly fit that bill.” 


As she entered the store, she snagged a basket and began her search while throwing various items into the cart. She rounded a corner and paused when she saw the woman she thought was Sophie Durant inspecting the cantaloupes. She pushed her cart toward the melons and covertly pushed the button of a camera hidden in her lapel before she picked up a cantaloupe. When the woman lifted her head, Parker snapped another picture, but knew she wouldn’t need it—Sophie Durant stood across from her. Parker seized the opportunity to capture her gaze and smiled broadly. “How do you know if they’re ripe?” 


“It’s a crap shoot,” Sophie said. 


There seemed to be a momentary glint of fear in the woman’s eyes, but it disappeared quickly. With a laugh, Parker said, “Good, you’ve confirmed my suspicions.”


Sophie nodded, put a cantaloupe in her basket and casually walked away.


A woman who seemed to appear from out of nowhere and now stood next to Parker said, “It is hard to tell with store melons.”


Parker looked at the woman and frowned. How long has she been there? I can’t believe I missed her. These twenty-four-hour surveillances must be getting to me. “So it is a crap shoot then?”


The woman laughed again. “Yeah, it is. The best thing to do with them is take it home, put it on the counter and when you smell cantaloupe it is ready,” she said with a quiet confident air.


Parker’s eyes gave the woman the once-over. She certainly isn’t a beauty in the classical sense, but damn she has my attention with that marvelous smile and those twinkling brown eyes. She removed her sunglasses and said, “Thanks, I’ll do just that.” 


“Here,” the woman said, handing Parker a cantaloupe. “This one should be ripe in a day or two.”


“I’m pretty sure you chose that one for yourself…I’ll find another.”


The woman laughed again and gestured to the bin holding the melons. “I’m sure I can find another. Please, take this one.”


Parker shrugged slightly and took the offered melon. “Thanks.” She scrutinized the woman again before saying, “Have a great day and thanks again.” She pushed her cart away, but after she went a short distance, she stopped and looked back at the woman. Hmm, I wonder if she’d give me her number. Damn, if I wasn’t working a case I’d… All thoughts stopped when she spied Sophie heading toward the cash registers. 


Shit! I need to get to the van. She abandoned her cart and hurried toward the exit. She knew better than to let outside forces compromise her case and she almost let the mystery woman do just that. Her old partner’s words echoed again. You always allow yourself to get distracted, Parker. You can’t do that and be a successful police officer…someone, like your partner, will end up dead.



From her vantage point in the Winnebago, Parker munched on a sandwich as she watched Sophie’s friend Camille arrive home. She adjusted her headphones and turned the volume up slightly. Other than the sound of a television, Parker hadn’t heard anything from the apartment since Sophie returned from her shopping trip. She listened intently hearing the door open and the woman say, “I’m home.”


The voice she assumed was Sophie’s seemed agitated. “I’ve been spotted and I need to leave.”


“Spotted…who was it?”


“Some woman at the grocery store spoke to me.”


“And that makes you think you were made? Did this woman do anything other than speak to you?”


“No! You don’t understand, Cammie. I’ve been going to that market every week since I came here and the people there are always the same…until today!”


“You never saw her there before? What did she look like?”


“The only thing I remember is a big floppy hat with hair extensions.”


“Shit!” Parker said as she slammed her hand against the table.


“Hair extensions were in the hat?”


“Yeah…at least that is how it looked to me…she wore oversized sunglasses too. Doesn’t that sound like a disguise to you?”


“Maybe she was just eccentric. I’ve seen more than my share of weirdoes in this town”


“NO! I’m telling you she was watching me! I need to get out of here fast before my evil stepmother shows up on your doorstep.”


“Hold on a minute,” Camille said. “If you’re dead set on leaving at least let me find you a safe place to go. All I have to do is make one call and it will be all set up.”


“I don’t know.”


“Trust me, okay?”


The next thing Parker heard was, “Aunt Gin, I need a favor.” She moved the mouse of her laptop and started a search for Camille Peterson’s relatives. It didn’t take long for her to find Virginia Grayson who lived in a small town about two hours away. Her attention then turned completely back to the women’s conversation.


“It’s all set up. You can stay at my aunt’s boarding house in Waterston.”


“Waterston…never heard of it.”


“Not too many have and that is good for you. I have next Wednesday off. I will take you, introduce you to my aunt and get you all moved in. My aunt is great and I know you will get along with her…everyone does.”


A long pause had Parker turning the volume up. What she heard was unmistakable—kissing. “She’s gay?” Parker said as she flipped through her files and found pictures of Sophie at all kinds of events. “She is always with men…there’s no mention of her being a lesbian anywhere. She must be a master of disguise if she kept that a secret.”


“I don’t want you to leave,” she heard Camille say.


“I know, but I have to keep you safe. My stepmother will stop at nothing until she finds and kills me.”


Parker sat up straight. Kills her? Why?


“Come on, Sophie, we’ve talked about this before…I can’t see her hiring someone to murder you.”


“Because you don’t know what she’s capable of! Trust me, she will stop at nothing until she has all my inheritance.”


Parker flipped through her notes and until she found the financials on Sophie. She only read a few lines when she heard the sounds of kissing again followed by the familiar groans of a sexually charged situation. Unable to concentrate, she put the file down and, feeling like a voyeur, closed her eyes and leaned back in the seat. It wasn’t too long before her body reacted vicariously to the sounds. The zipper to her jeans came down, and her fingers slid inside. The face of the woman she spoke with in the grocery store floated into her mind. Hmm, I wonder what her name is. She thought as her fingers glided inside.


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